There are few delicious pleasures in life as wonderfully satisfying than being so completely absorbed and utterly enthralled by the music to which you are listening that all sense of time, space and place are temporarily forgotten. Magnified is exactly that kind of delightful surprise, effortlessly exerting a mesmerising and seductive captivation which renders this beautiful debut album from Beatrix Players a thoroughly enchanting experience.
The irresistible allure of the music is skilfully crafted around the thrilling and ever powerful presence of the piano, offset and complimented by the vivid and often dramatic strings of the cello and both are nurtured and encouraged by the melodic nuance and emotional poignancy of the vocals. The shifting ebb and flow between the three players creates an exciting and edgy dynamism, the fluid and continually evolving interactions forming sumptuous textures and compelling soundscapes that are happily spell-binding.
Yet there is also a foreboding sense of driving purpose diffused at all levels throughout the album, a strong and uncompromising spirit of determination which supplies a creative vision buried in the heart of what is being played. There is a willingness to dabble, to experiment, to pursue the meaning being conveyed in the music by blending differing styles and genres in order to capture and convey the unique sound which is so earnestly being sought.
Given the nature of the instruments involved there is no surprise to find elements of classical, baroque and even choral traditions but these have been delicately infused with rhythms and styles drawn from folk, prog, blues and jazz to craft an impressively expansive and hugely evocative sound which is as enthralling as it is consuming. It is a combination which forms the perfect cradle to tell the sometimes painful and all too human stories which inspire the songs with which we are being presented.
“The power of music”, Jess Kennedy (piano) believes, is its potent ability “to make people feel something”, to take hold of you and let you become lost in the moment. At heart, Magnified is an intelligent series of narratives, stories and vignettes which speak with tremendous power and feeling to the day to day situations in which we find ourselves, the gamut of emotions we experience and the often agonizing and difficult problems with which we wrestle.
But this is music which is sensitively designed to make you think as well as feel. It works so well because it takes the rawness of everyday experience and fuses it with the mythology and the symbolism of age old stories which are familiar to us all. Real life mixes with fantasy to create sweeping, expressive melodies that are rich with empathy and compassion and form an enticing gateway through which we hardly notice ourselves enter.
What we find is the darkness which sometimes occupies the heart of beauty and often hidden within everyday life. This is not an album which shies away from or turns a blind eye to the more troubling aspects of human experience, despite the seeming elegance and charm of the music itself. Indeed, it is precisely the combination of the open vitality of the music with a biting realism of what life sometimes throws at us which allows the songs to communicate with such commanding potency and emotional authority.
“So I can’t write a love song” is the forlorn opening to Molehill (Track 5), thoroughly bewitching in terms of the music, heartbreaking in terms of the lyrics. Never Again (Track 3) positively makes your blood run cold with its plaintive “The walk of shame / In the middle of the day / The sun hits my tears / And blinds my thoughts / And in this moment I am numb / Another night and surely I’m done”; yet all we initially hear are the strains of piano and cello gently rippling and undulating in the background.
This is the standout achievement of what is without doubt a magical album. We are graced with music which opens the soul to the full catalogue of human experiences, without blinking and yet, without retreating either. There is strength and resolve in the darkness: “I’ll cut my hair / Become courageous / For I will live to outdate this / Take a risk and find strength” (Never Again). Forlorn does not necessarily or always mean despair and resignation. We can find, within ourselves and with the help of others, the strength to rise above what trouble us.
With the release of Magnified, Beatrix Players have created a truly stunning and enchanting collection of musical experiences to delight the soul and feed the mind. Call it bewitching, call it sublime, I thoroughly recommend sharing time with it and succumbing to all the enchanting journeys on which it will take you.
31st March 2017
Format: CD / Digital
Label: Independent/Ardent Management
Amanda Alvarez – Cello
Amy Birks – Lead & Backing Vocals
Jess Kennedy – Piano, Flute, Backing Vocals, All extra parts and soundscape
Robyn Hemmings – Double Bass (Walk Away, Roses)
Anna Jenkins – Violin (Never Again, Mole Hill & Obey Me) & Viola (Mole Hill)
This review originally appeared for Progradar